I have recently been pondering a question every time that I buy food for my bird feeders.
Is it cheaper to buy bird food online or locally from a store?
Personally, I love supporting local businesses with my money. But it’s also incredibly convenient to buy birdseed online from Amazon at 11 pm on Sunday night while in my pajamas drinking bourbon.
I am in my early thirties, a “millennial” and a little biased toward thinking buying anything online is going to be cheaper than going to a local store. But I always feel a twinge of guilt when ordering things on the Internet because I prefer that my money stays in our community.
It was time to run a series of experiments to find the cheapest place to buy bird food and birdseed.
Here is what I did:
I visited six local stores, which included everything from pet stores to grocery stores to hardware stores, to compare the price in the store vs. the price I could find online.
I had a few guidelines that I followed while conducting this experiment:
1. To make a proper comparison, the brand of the bird food had to be the same. It’s unfair to compare sunflower seed from Company A at a local store vs. sunflower seed from Company B online. The quality of birdseed can differ significantly from company to company, depending on how and where it was harvested.
2. The bag size of the bird food had to be the same. So if I found a 25-pound bag of black oil sunflower from Company A at my local hardware store, then it had to be compared against the same 25-pound bag from Company A online.
3. To compare in-store prices against the prices available online, I tried to use Amazon whenever possible. This is because most people think of Amazon first when trying to find the lowest prices available online. I thought it best to compare local prices against the Internets biggest giant! Also, Amazon typically has free shipping, which I love.
One last thing before we dig into the 9 case studies below:
Prices constantly change! The prices you see below are what they were the day this article was published. I intend to keep this article updated periodically, but reader and buyer beware! I will include links where applicable to check the current online prices.
Are you ready???
Case Study # 1: Black Oil Sunflower Seed
I thought it would be best to start with black oil sunflower seed because it’s the most popular and common bird food offered in feeders.
I found this 10-pound bag of Audubon Park black oil sunflower seed at my local grocery store.
In case you can’t see the price tag below, purchasing at the grocery store would cost $9.99.
A quick search on Amazon shows that buying the same 10-pound bag cost $20.34. View Current Price
Wow! I was a bit shocked to see that buying locally from my grocery store (of all places!) was half the cost of purchasing online.
We have a clear winner from the first case study!
Buying Local = 1 , Buying Online = 0
- Related Reading: The 3 Best Cardinal Bird Feeders In My Backyard
Case Study #2: Sunflower Hearts/Chips
For the second test, we are going to stay at the same grocery store and use the same brand.
But this time let’s take a look at sunflower hearts and chips.
Audubon Park Sunflower Chips (5 lbs)
Grocery Store: $11.99
Amazon: $23.40 Check Current Price
Incredible! That’s a savings of almost 50%. Buying local has jumped out to an early lead.
Buying Local = 2 , Buying Online = 0
Case Study #3: Safflower Seed
This case study will feature safflower purchased from my local pet store, Pet Supplies Plus.
Kaytee Safflower Seed (5lbs)
Pet Store: $8.98
Amazon: $13.50 Check Current Price
Once again, buying local saves a significant amount of money (33%).
Buying Local = 3, Buying Online = 0
Case Study #4: Nyjer Seed
I went to the closest Home Depot to check out their bird food selection. One of the products they carried was a 10-pound bag of Wagner’s nyjer seed. This caught my eye because I know for a fact that I have ordered the 5-pound bag on Amazon before.
Wagner’s Nyjer Seed (10 lbs)
Home Depot: $18.98
Amazon: $21.98 Check Current Price
Buying local wins again and saves about 14%. At least these prices were similar, unlike the first 3 case studies.
Buying Local = 4, Buying Online = 0
- Related Reading: Finch Feeders: The 3 Types Working Best For Me
Case Study #5: Nyjer Seed Finch Socks
While at Pet Supplies Plus, I noticed they carried these Kaytee Finch Socks. I have ordered this twin pack from Amazon before, so I was excited to compare prices.
Kaytee Nyjer Seed Finch Sock (Twin Pack)
Pet Store: $7.98
Amazon: $12.03 Check Current Price
This competition is quickly turning into a blowout. (~33% savings buying local)
Buying Local = 5, Buying Online = 0
Case Study #6: Peanuts
To be honest, the inspiration for this post came while shopping at Sam’s Club. I was there on my lunch break purchasing diapers when I came across the below 5-pound bag of peanuts from Hampton Farms.
What blew me away was that a 5-pound bag only cost $5.68. For the past few months, I have been buying this EXACT bag on Amazon to feed the Blue Jay’s in my backyard, and I knew that it has been costing me significantly more!
Hampton Farms Peanuts (5 lb)
Sam’s Club: $5.68
Amazon: $16.98 Check Current Price
What a huge price difference (67%)! Seriously, this enormous discrepancy is what initially got me curious about what was cheaper, buying local or online.
Buying Local = 6, Buying Online = 0
Case Study #7: Mealworms
My backyard birds love when I put mealworms out as a treat and will quickly eat them all!
And since mealworms seem to be the most expensive bird food by weight, I was very interested to find the cheapest place to buy them.
I have been purchasing freeze-dried mealworms on Amazon, assuming this must be the cheapest place to buy. To compare prices, I was able to find the same brand and size that I typically purchase on Amazon at the pet store.
Kaytee Mealworms (7-Ounce)
Pet Store: $6.98
Amazon: $9.20 Check Current Price
Buying from a store saves 25% on mealworms.
Buying Local = 7, Buying Online = 0
Case Study #8: General Bird Seed Mix
The last two case studies will feature two general bird seed mixes from different retailers.
This first one is the Kaytee Songbird blend (5 lbs). I found this at another local pet store (Pet’s Mart).
Kaytee Songbird Blend (5 lbs)
Pet Store: $9.99
Amazon: $17.60 Check Current Price
Another case study with the same result. Buying locally would save about 43% instead of buying this birdseed blend online.
Buying Local = 8, Buying Online = 0
Case Study #9: General Bird Seed Mix
To finish this experiment, I decided to head to Wild Birds Unlimited. They are a national franchise that specializes in bird feeding products, seeds, and foods.
Below is there popular “No-Mess Plus Blend” that features sunflower chips, shelled peanuts, and a few other foods that don’t have shells.
Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Plus Blend (20 lbs)
Local WBU Store: $45.99 (it’s only $39.09 if you are part of their discount club)
WBU.com: $48.99 (plus ~$15.00 for shipping!) Check Today's Price
Once again, it’s cheaper to buy at the local store instead of ordering online. These results were similar for all the other bird foods that Wild Birds Unlimited offers (sunflower, nyjer, suet, etc.).
Buying Local = 9, Buying Online = 0
Takeaways and Observations:
To be honest, the results of this experiment blew me away!
Out of the 9 case studies that were performed, it was always cheapest to buy bird seed or food from a local retailer.
Buying from a local store saved an average of over 50%!
I am guilty of having a prejudice that buying online was cheaper than heading to a store. I know this is true of other products, but the trend does not seem to apply to bird seed and food.
Could it be that the weight of bird food prevents cheap shipping? And does that cost have to be passed to the consumer online?
This may be part of the reason for heavier bags of seed. But it just can’t be true for lower weight items such as mealworms or finch socks.
Like many other people, I have become addicted to ordering products on Amazon. The free 2-day shipping offered by their Prime membership is incredibly convenient, especially now that we have two young children and going to the store has become increasingly difficult.
But part of my preference for ordering on Amazon was because of my (false) assumption that it was also CHEAPER. This experiment has me re-thinking about where we are going to shop, not only for bird food but many other products.
It could not have been more clear:
Buying bird food from a local store is significantly cheaper than buying online!
Questions for you:
Here is where I need your help.
The results of my experiment were clear. But I live in Akron, Ohio. I’m sure that prices differ all across the United States and the world.
- Where is the best and least expensive place to buy bird food where you live?
- Please make sure to share if you live outside the United States!
- Is there a cheaper website than Amazon to order bird seed online?
Thanks for reading!